The coronavirus pandemic is expected to be reaching its apex in New York as Long Island congregations prepare for significant religious observances: Easter (April 12) and Passover, which continues through April 16. Earlier this month, Long Island Jains celebrated one of their most important festivals. This week’s clergy discuss how traditions can be preserved while social distancing is in effect.
Rabbi Tuvia Teldon
Regional Director, Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island
The Torah was presented to the Jewish people by God 3,332 years ago and has been observed and celebrated under the most extreme and difficult conditions. Because a pandemic presents unique challenges, however, and health is our first priority, all synagogue activity has come to a halt.
Nevertheless, I have seen more creativity in the past month than in years. The innovative ways people are observing personal milestones, the variety of internet sites being put to good use and the amount of good deeds being performed — all have astounded me.
Perhaps the greatest way to preserve our traditions is to view Judaism as a way of life that is supposed to be 95% in the home and 5% in the synagogue. With mezuzas on our doors, kosher food in the kitchen, Sabbath candles and a charity box in the dining room, the sound of learning and discussions in the air, Jewish books and art on the walls, and lots of Jewish topics available for all ages on the net, we are well covered. The closing of our synagogues should be seen as an opportunity to ensure that the foundation of our Jewish home is sound.
The Rev. Thomas Cardone
Chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale
In a letter of St. Peter we read “You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again; he will confirm, strengthen, and support you.” (1 Peter 5:10) Here and throughout the world, we find ourselves in a time of suffering, isolation and death.
Easter Sunday this year might seem like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Like Jesus, however, we will only have to suffer for a little while. As people rooted in a deep sense of hope, we know that all will be well again. Jesus is the resurrection and the life who conquers sin and death. Jesus tells us not to be afraid and to trust.
If God raises the Lord Jesus, God will raise us to a new hope and make us understand that there is much suffering to get through, and it is through faith in the living Jesus that we are enabled to do so! For God will see that all is well again.
Chairman, Long Island Multi-Faith Forum
In the greater New York area, Jain places of worship took very quick and restrictive actions to comply with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Group activities were canceled, as were major April events including the public singing, dancing and processions on Mahavir Janma Kalyanak, an important festival celebrating the birthday of Mahavir, one of the most famous spiritual teachers in Jainism.
Jains, however, are still participating in worship, virtually. Young people can attend religion classes online. And all Jains can see daily prayer at the temple online as well as video of past major celebrations. Although our temples are closed and large group activities are prohibited, Jains can celebrate at home by reading and practicing Mahavir’s teaching.
Among the many principles Mahavir propagated are nonviolence, which also calls for compassion, charity and caring. Locally, Jains are using social media to reach out to people who need food, groceries and medicine, and providing lunches for health care workers and N95 masks for hospitals. In addition, an organization of more than 75 Jain centers in North America is using a special relief fund to provide help where needed.
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